It’s easy to overlook, if you’re a “real” New Yorker, some of the city’s most breathtaking experiences. Maybe it’s our distinctly cultivated cynicism, which some of us — especially the transplants from elsewhere — wear like badges. And if you’re a transplant, somehow the idea of playing tourist again is even more unthinkable. You worked so hard to lay stakes and establish yourself here, what’s the point of backtracking? Why even consider bothering to check out something like One World Observatory?
The reason is not because of the things that make the One World Observatory experience special for tourists, like the history of New York told in a cascade of brilliant images in the elevator on your way skyrocketing up 1,268 feet. That’s fine and good for someone from out of town. But you’ve already watched (and, let’s face it, cried through) the Ric Burns New York documentary several times. You think you know it all, from early Dutch settlements up through what’s planned in Lower Manhattan next week (hello, winter beer garden at Brookfield).
But what you don’t know is that what’s waiting for you, the local, at the top of One World Observatory isn’t a view of New York City. It’s a view of your own life.
Just there, in the distance, maybe far uptown, or maybe way south in Brooklyn or perhaps just across the river in New Jersey, you can glimpse the cluster of buildings where you first landed and lived. Walk a bit around the perimeter. Just there? That’s where you worked your first job. And between those buildings there, or just behind them, is where you met a best friend. And over the river, just there, is where you met the bad boyfriend, and slightly south is where you met the good one, the one that stayed.
Just down there, if gutsy enough to look down, is where you took that epic run that one time, into that tunnel and out again.
As you’re convening with the city that’s become your home, the present will probably intervene, your phone, filling up with texts, asking where on your homebound commute you are, and could you pick up some of that cheap-yet-so-good wine for tonight? It’s just another weekday. You’re not on vacation like the people around you. But it’s almost sunset, and you have to catch that view.
So you delay. And the sky turns into shades of rose and orange over the smokestacks of distant Elizabeth, where maybe you and your mother, two decades ago, used to first witness New York City while driving up the turnpike, when Lower Manhattan looked so different, on hour four of a long ride from where you grew up, the place you used to call your home.
After the sun sets over the horizon, you get ready to leave — but there’s more to see. The city is transforming from hard-edged and variegated to simpler and yet more stunning shades of light and dark.
Stay a little longer. You don’t even have to take any pictures; you know this city well enough already.
But there’s more to see as the light keeps changing. Of the city that’s become your home, there’s always more to see.